As you could tell from the West Virginia-themed clips I left up while away, I was off visiting the state where I spent most of my childhood. This was only my second time back in Charleston since graduating from high school in 1980. I am a proud graduate of George Washington High School, a distinction I share with Jennifer Garner and thousands of others. (No, I don’t know Jennifer. She graduated ten years after me. Though based on her GW reminiscences, we had several of the same teachers).
But truthfully I am more Mountaineer than Hoosier. I lived in West Virginia from age 6 to age 17. I grew from a small boy to a young man while living in the Mountain State. It is where I went to school. It is where I made my first friends. It is where I experience my first love. It is where I started writing. It is where I had all those formative experiences that made me who I am today.
For the first six years, I lived in WV’s northern panhandle in the town of Weirton which used to be part of the industrial backbone of America. The steel mill was the heartbeat of the town. If you didn’t work at the mill, you worked at something that supported the mill. The furnaces ran 24/7 giving the town its distinctive look and smell. My cousins still remember us showing them piles of spent coke still glowing in the night.
Being back in the state this month was like being back home. My only regret is that I could not stay longer than I did.
Some basic West Virginia facts: The state sport is football. The state cathedral is Mountaineer Stadium. The state recreation is hunting. The first battle of the American Revolution happened in Point Pleasant (maybe). John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry helped ignite the War Between the States two years later. The first land battle of the Civil War happened in Philippi.
Quite simply, if you want to understand America, you have to understand West Virginia. The state is a part of me and I am a part of it. And I am more than happy to feel its Appalachian heritage coursing through my veins each time I write.